I’ve Got an Offer: Do I Have to Decide NOW?

For returning 2nd year MBA and Masters business students, you may have a decision to make fairly soon.

We all know that an internship is really a 10 to 12 week on-the-job interview; a chance or you to showcase your knowledge, skills and abilities in a “real” situation while allowing the company and your manager to assess your fit for their organization and specific needs. At the Masters level, that’s one of their primary purposes. If you do well and the company is interested and hiring, you may well receive a fulltime offer. In this economic environment, it’s very good to have an offer. That can also present a dilemma for some.

Almost all fulltime offers today have a short decision timeline. I realize some students may want to use the fall semester to test the waters and see what other options might be available but a short decision timeline will not afford you that option. If you have a decision date such as August 31st or September 9th, it is very unlikely you’ll be able to get a delay much beyond a week, maybe two.

That may cause you some angst so it’s important to keep in mind a few relevant and important facts.

  1. You have an offer because that organization is very interested in you joining them and they see you as a potential contributor with a future at their company. That cannot be overlooked. In this poor economy and very competitive hiring environment, where you have so many looking for opportunities, it means something when a company commits to you.
  2. While it would be nice to have a semester to make a decision on our fulltime offer, companies are under no obligation to put their plans and operational needs on hold and live with uncertainty while students look for what they may perceive as a “better deal”. A manager with a position to fill and you as their preferred candidate cannot afford to wait 3 or 4 months to see if you will be there in January only to find out in November that you’ve taken someone else’s offer and they’re left with an open position and few options. It’s not personal; it’s business.
  3. The average time line from when you apply for a position to receiving an offer, if you are successful, can easily run at least 3, 4 to 5 months. So even if a company says they’ll give you an extra 3 – 4 weeks to make a decision, say until the end of September, you are still likely to find yourself having to make a decision with no other job offers or options.
  4. If you accept an offer, you are ethically and professionally committed to the company whose offer you accept. Accepting and offer and continuing to apply, interview and possibly even accept another offer is not only unethical and unprofessional, it could lead to your having both offers withdrawn should your actions be discovered. That has happened. The damage to your professional reputation and employability cannot be understated and is never worth it.Let me put it this way; you would not be happy to find out a company offered you a fulltime job and, after you accepted, continued to pursue other candidates and, let’s say, in November called to tell you they are going with someone else. You would be very upset and rightly so. It’s the same exact thing.
  5. You can always turn down the offer you’ve received and spend the fall pursuing other options, looking for another opportunity. That is certainly one option. You may well be successful but keep in mind that the company whose offer you turned down will have moved on to find another candidate and fill the position. In this economy, that will not be difficult. It is a risk you should keep in mind.
  6. You have to make the best career decision for you, your family and your career. You have to weigh all the facts and all the options. I would strongly advise against taking the advice, often well meaning, of friends or others with no real stake in your professional life. Often that advice is based on nothing of substance or any real professional knowledge or experience.
  7. You first position out of your Masters program is not going to be your last. Never look at your first job offer as if it is for the “rest of your life”. It isn’t. Your job performance in your first few years will be very important to your career going forward. When the economy starts improving, and it eventually will, there will be additional opportunities for experienced managers. So, never look at your first offer as your last.
  8. Your offer may have a short timeline but never accept an offer when you get it. And remember that it isn’t an “offer” until it is in writing; never accept a verbal offer. Anything verbal is a conversation; real offers are in writing.

If you have an offer, take it to your Career Services Advisor or Coach. Weigh the pros and possible cons of your offer, what the timeline is and any other details that may be relevant and important. I am a strong believer in counter-offering your initial offer. It’s almost always worth the offer.

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your degree so let’s make sure you put just as much effort into making the best possible decision for your first post-MBA/Masters opportunity.

Author:  Jim Dixey, Director, Graduate Business Career Services, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University

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